Get a dose of secluded, unrefined nature on this Central American Journey.

From tropical cloud forests alive with jungle melodies to vast freshwater lakes and active volcanoes, this pocket of Central America is a pure, unrefined paradise. Whether you’re relaxing beneath shaggy palms on a dark-sand beach in El Cuco, spotting colourful birds perched on the colonial facades of Suchitoto, standing in the shadow of mighty Arenal Volcano or spotting sloths among the canopy of Monteverde, this 17-day Central American journey through Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica is perfect for those who like their adventures 'la forma natural' (the natural way).


Start
Antigua, Guatemala
Finish
San Jose, Costa Rica
Destinations
Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua
Style
Basix
Theme
Explorer
Code
QVRJ
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Why you'll love this trip

  • The stars of this trip are the dramatic and varied landscapes of lush Central America. If you’re thinking active volcanoes, idyllic beaches and emerald jungles – this trip has got you covered.

  • Quaint Suchitoto is a contemporary arts hub with a colonial facade. Explore the flower-studded balconies, galleries housed in 19th-century buildings and a lake teeming with thousands of local birds.

  • Stray off the beaten track in El Cuco, where the dark-sand beaches are secluded, the surf breaks are pumping, and the sunsets are unforgettable.

  • Nicaragua is often neglected by travellers in favour of its neighbours, but their loss is your gain! Travel through Central America’s largest country and discover towns largely untouched by tourism.

  • Hike, cycle or zip-line through the steamy cloud forests of Monteverde – there’s so many ways to experience the lush canopies and unique Central American wildlife.

Is this trip right for you?

  • You cover heaps of ground on this trip, and so, there are some long travel days (especially Day 8). Although this can be tiresome, it's a great opportunity to sit back, enjoy the passing scenery and to bond with your fellow travellers. This is a real Central American adventure, after all!

  • This trip includes time spent travelling in a private vehicle with your group. Extra space can be tight, and conditions may feel a little cramped. It’s all part of the adventure and a great way to get to know your fellow travellers. Please read the itinerary carefully for travel time estimates.

  • As this trip covers destinations across five countries, you'll need to make several border crossings. While these are usually straightforward, please prepare to be patient.

  • Central America is tropical, so expect a hot and humid climate. Make sure you protect yourself from the sun, wear comfortable, light clothing and stay hydrated - especially when out on walking tours.

  • There are many opportunities to get active on this adventure.

  • From walking the Costa Rican border crossing to optional full-day volcano hikes, this trip can involve a lot of walking. Please ensure you bring sturdy walking shoes and comfortable clothes. To make the most of the trip, it's best if you have at least a moderate level of fitness.

  • There will be times when you have to walk with your luggage, and for this reason, we recommend packing light and using a backpack or something easy to carry.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 Jan 2020 to 31 Dec 2020.
View the 2019 itinerary
Welcome to Antigua, Guatemala. With crumbling churches, vibrant markets and bohemian cafes set against the backdrop of monumental volcanoes, Antigua is the perfect place to ease into your Central American adventure. Speaking of adventure, yours officially kicks off with a welcome meeting at 6 pm today at the hotel. If you do decide to arrive in the city a little early (smart move!), there's plenty to do. Maybe satisfy your cravings and learn the art of old-world chocolate production at the ChocoMuseo, or sit by the fountain and people watch in Central Park. After the welcome meeting, the night is yours, so perhaps head out with some of your fellow travellers for a tamale: a classic staple of Mesoamerica that sees dough, meat and sauces steamed and served in a corn husk.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Antigua - Chocolate-making workshop - GTQ130
  • Antigua - Coffee/Macadamia nut plantation tour - GTQ240
  • Antigua - Salsa lesson (per hour) - GTQ35
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting as we will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this time. If you are going to be late please let your travel agent or hotel reception know. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.

Please note that this trip can be partnered with other adventures into a ‘combo’, which means that some of your fellow travellers may have begun their journey before today, and some may carry on to further destinations at the end of this tour. If you’d like to spend more time in Central America, have a look at the combos that include this trip’s itinerary: Central American Adventure (QVRXC) or Best of Central America (QVRQC)
Rise and shine for a day of travel, leaving at around 4 am to beat the rush-hour traffic around Antigua. All up you'll be spending around 8 hours driving to Copan by private vehicle, and while the scenery is breathtaking in sections, it's a good idea to pack a book or have some snacks ready to make the journey more comfortable. During the drive, your group leader will run an informal Spanish lesson, providing you some useful phrases to break the ice with the locals. Head into Honduras through the wild countryside of eastern Guatemala, arriving in the charming town of Copan in the early afternoon. While most people use Copan as a base to explore the nearby ruins, there are plenty of other points of interest, both along the cobblestone streets and set into the lush surrounds. Maybe get started in the Central Plaza and follow your nose to café, or perhaps head to the nearby natural hot springs. This optional tour gives you hours of soak time in mud, steaming natural baths and refreshing pools in the lush jungle, with an included dinner.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Leader-led Informal Spanish Lesson
Optional Activities
  • Copan - Natural Hot Springs & Dinner - USD45
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning, take a visit with your group to the World Heritage-listed ruins of Copan, the remnants of the southernmost of the great Maya sites for which Central America is famous. Unique because of the numerous elaborate stelae – carved columns – still intact on site, there are also temples, excavated vaults and walls inscribed with ancient faces. Otherwise, nature lovers may wish to travel 2 kilometres out of town to the Macaw Mountain Bird Park and Nature Reserve. Dedicated to the conservation of the Central American macaw, the reserve also houses toucans, motmots, parrots, kingfishers and orioles. Wave goodbye to Copan early in the afternoon and head across the border to El Salvador by private vehicle. There's another substantial amount of time spent on the road this afternoon (approximately 7 hours). Depending on traffic and conditions, you are expected to reach the colonial town of Suchitoto in the evening, just in time for a late dinner.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Copan - Archeological site (Transport & Entrance fee)
Optional Activities
  • Copan - Macaw Mountain Bird Park (Entrance fee) - HNL230
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Begin the day with a guided orientation walk of Suchitoto – widely considered the cultural capital of El Salvador. Stroll past gorgeous colonial facades and get your bearings. Birders will want to crane their necks; Suchitoto lies on a bird migration path. The rest of the day is all yours to get among the optional activities on offer. Suchitoto overlooks the Embalse Cerron Grande. Also known as Lago Suchitlan, this freshwater lake is a haven for the aforementioned migrating birds, particularly falcons and hawks. Maybe hustle a crew of 4 or more together and take a boat trip to Bird Island, or perhaps grab a historically-minded quartet for a guided walk through Cinquera Forest, where guerrilla fighters used the forest as cover during the civil war.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Suchitoto - Leader led walking tour
Optional Activities
  • Suchitoto - Boat trip to Bird Island in Lake Suchitlan (it requires a minimum of 3 travellers to operate) - USD25
  • Suchitoto - War historic walk at Cinquera Forest (requires a minimum of 3 travellers to operate) - USD40
  • Suchitoto - Morning kayak bird watching (requires a minimum of 3 travellers to run) - USD40
  • Suchitoto - Town tour (it requires a minimum of 3 travellers to operate) - USD30
  • Suchitoto - Birdwatching Walk (requires a minimum of 3 travellers to operate) - USD25
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning, get your chef’s hat on with a pupusa making session in a private home. These thick cornmeal flatbreads are a classic Salvadorian recipe from the Pipil culture, and are stuffed with some delicious ingredients, like cheese or chicharron (fried pork). Later on, head to coastal El Cuco (approximately 5 hours). There are some great dark-sand beaches close to town, including the beautiful Playa El Esteron and Playa Las Flores – one of the best surf spots in the country. Maybe head to a beach for a swim under the palms and relax with a beer while you wait for sunset. As night falls, you could enjoy a seafood dinner along the water – the local crab are some of the best in the country.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • San Miguel - Salvadoran Pupusa cooking demonstration
Meals Included
  • Lunch
Today you're free as a bird to explore the beautiful coast around El Cuco at your own pace. If you and a few others feel like getting active, you could take a trip to see nearby Conchagua Volcano. The views from the lookout are stunning, but you'll need a minimum of 5 people to take part. Alternatively, you might prefer to take a boat out on the ocean, find some inner peace during a free yoga class at the resort or simply relax in a hammock on the beach. Life’s good.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • El Cuco - Volcan de Conchagua lookout (it requires a minimum of 5 travellers to operate) - USD35
  • El Cuco - Yoga Class (Subject to teacher availability) - Free
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Rise early for a full day of travel by private vehicle. Leave El Cuco at around 8 am and drive to El Amatillo border crossing (approximately 1.5 hours) before a 2.5 drive by of Honduras (including a stop for lunch) to the next border crossing Guasaule, and finally reaching Leon after another 2.5 hours. Upon arrival your leader will take you on a walking tour of this charming city. Though it's the second largest in the country, Leon is relatively free of tourists, making strolling the mural-lined streets a real pleasure.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Leon - Leader led walking tour
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
The Nicaraguan border crossing can be confusing and disorderly so please pay close attention to your leader instructions. At this border crossing you will need to pay USD 12 fee, payable in cash.
Make the most of Leon in the morning. The street food behind the Lady of Grace Cathedral is some of the best in town, so why not grab a 'Nica taco'. Made with maize, rolled and then deep fried, these beauties are usually served with shredded cabbage and smothered in cream. Otherwise a thrilling volcano sand boarding adventure could be on the cards! Board a local bus bound for Granada at 2 pm, making the 3-hour journey to the oldest city in the 'New World'. Featuring Moorish and Andalusian architecture and oozing colonial charm, the city is set on the banks of Lake Nicaragua and is surrounded by active volcanoes. Set out on a walking tour with your leader on arrival. Visit busy markets, the leafy Parque Central and 'La Calzada': a lively pedestrian street with plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Granada - Leader-led walking tour
Optional Activities
  • Leon - Volcano Sand Boarding - NIO1260
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is all yours, so explore the city at your own pace. You may want to take a more comprehensive self-guided tour of the city, bargain hard in the markets or wander the cobblestone streets snapping photos of the colourful buildings. Hundreds of evergreen islets dot the waters of vast Lake Nicaragua, and you can spend a few hours exploring them by boat. Or perhaps hire a kayak and find your own way around, stopping to wave at fisherman who live in wooden huts on the islets, or the monkeys who live in the trees the huts are built from. Just remember not to take a dip, as freshwater sharks live in the water! Alternatively, you could take a day trip out to Mombacho or Masaya Volcano National Park.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Granada - Mombacho Volcano hike - NIO910
  • Granada - Masaya Volcano at night (Viewpoint for the Lava Lake at Santiago Crater) - NIO1140
  • Granada - Laguna Apoyo kayaking tour - NIO1025
  • Granada - Monkey Island boat tour - NIO455
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Have a morning of leisure in Granada. Perhaps start the day with a classic Nicaraguan breakfast of eggs, rice and beans, soft cheese, plantains and strong coffee. Then maybe hit the Convento y Museo San Francisco and view the collection of indigenous stone statues. At 2 pm take a local bus to Rivas (approximately 1.5 hours) and transfer to the port of San Jorge to catch a 1-hour ferry across the seemingly endless waters of Lake Nicaragua to Ometepe Island. Hourglass-shaped Ometepe is formed by two volcanoes rising out of Lake Nicaragua, one active and one extinct. The island is home to fruit plantations, deep jungle and exotic wildlife such as howler monkeys, caiman and parrots. Spend the evening on the island, and maybe head out for a beer at one of the waterfront bars.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Spend your free day however you wish on Ometepe. You can hike both Concepcion or Maderas Volcano, however, at 1700 and 1340 metres above sea level, the treks are no walk in the park. If you are going to tackle them, ask your leader for a recommendation for a local guide. You should also be aware that even for the very fit, both volcanoes will likely take all day (8–10 hours) to summit and then descend. Instead, you might prefer to splash around in the clear waters of the natural springs, soak up the sun on the beach or check out the ancient petroglyphs (rock carvings) scattered about the island. While the restaurants on the island are of decidedly mixed quality, your leader can give you the lowdown on which places to avoid and which to eat at. Stick to local fare and you'll have more luck – perhaps try indio viejo: a stew of corn, beef, onion, tomatoes and capsicum.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Ometepe - Concepcion Volcano hike - USD45
  • Ometepe - Maderas Volcano hike - USD45
  • Ometepe - Ojo de Agua natural spring - USD25
  • Ometepe - Petroglyphs - USD20
  • Ometepe - Charco Verde tour (includes lunch, Ojo de Agua and Mirador lookout) - USD25
  • Ometepe - Charco Verde Reserve entrance fee - USD3
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is another early start in order to grab a 7 am ferry to the mainland (1.5 hours) and a 1.5-hour transfer to Penas Blancas before crossing the border into Costa Rica. Once in Costa Rica, travel by private vehicle for 5 hours to Monteverde. Phew – long day, but you made it! Welcome to beautiful Monteverde, which you can begin exploring straight away on a walking tour with your leader. Monteverde was founded as an agricultural community in 1951 by a group of North American Quakers. These environmentally-aware settlers also established a small wildlife sanctuary, which has since grown into the internationally-renowned Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve. Cloud forests are like rainforests, but instead draw their water from a semi-permanent cloud covering the region. This is truly a nature lover's paradise. More than 2000 plant species, 320 bird species and 100 mammal species call Monteverde home. Be sure to keep an eye out for the resplendent quetzal, one of the most elusive birds in the world.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Monteverde - Leader led walking tour
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
A USD 3 fee is required when exiting Nicaragua. Reaching the Costa Rican border also requires a 1-kilometre walk, during which you must carry your luggage. Proof of onward travel is normally required to enter Costa Rica, so if you're flying out of San Jose, bring a printed copy of your flight details in case the border officials ask to see them.
You’ll have a free day to discover the lush reserve at your own pace. Perhaps take a hike through the cloud forest, check out the area by mountain bike or fly over the thick canopy on a zip line tour. Another way to see the forest from above is to take a Sky Walk tour along a series of suspension bridges. You can explore the park on your own or arrange for a local guide to accompany you. Guided tours are particularly helpful for those interested in learning more about the local flora and fauna, as well as the different roles wildlife play in Mesoamerican mythology. You can get guaranteed sightings of exotic insects and snakes at the Butterfly Garden or the Serpentarium.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Monteverde - Cloud Forest (Entrance fee & Transport) - CRC16340
  • Monteverde - Suspension bridges tour - CRC19200
  • Monteverde - Zip lining - CRC36780
  • Monteverde - Coffee & Chocolate tour - CRC13480
  • Monteverde - Night walk through Cloud Forest - CRC21240
  • Monteverde - Cloud Forest Train - CRC24510
  • Monteverde - Serpentarium - CRC6130
  • Monteverde - Butterfly garden and insects farm - CRC6130
  • Monteverde - Frog pond - CRC6130
  • Monteverde - Orchid gardens - USD12
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Spend a final morning in the thickets of the Monteverde jungle, perhaps taking one last walk to search for wildlife. Depart in the early afternoon and head to La Fortuna. It takes about 1.5-hours to reach the shores of Lake Arenal, followed by a further 1.5-hour journey across the lake to the little town of La Fortuna. On a clear day you'll have fantastic views of the surrounding area, and watching the massive Arenal Volcano loom larger and larger as you approach is a spectacular sight. Once you reach La Fortuna take another vehicle to the hotel, then freshen up and head out on a leader-led walking tour. La Fortuna is a favourite among travel writers for a reason – words like picturesque and breathtaking spring to mind when trying to describe the town in the shadow of the volcano.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • La Fortuna - Leader led walking tour
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Good morning! Why not start today with a smoothie and plan how you want to explore. Perhaps take a guided nature hike through the lush forest surrounding Arenal Volcano, keeping an eye out for rare plants and animals. You can also see the forest from a series of hanging bridges, which is a great vantage point for spotting wildlife like sloths and rainbow-coloured birds. The volcano’s inner workings also mean that the area is home to several thermal hot springs, an ideal way to relax in the middle of nature. Or instead, check out the 70-metre-high La Fortuna waterfall set in the middle of evergreen rainforest. Active types might want to hit the lake on a stand-up paddleboard. Otherwise, a boat safari down the Celeste River offers the opportunity to see lizards, crocodiles and tropical birds in their natural habitat.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • La Fortuna - Hot springs - CRC18380
  • La Fortuna - Arenal hanging bridges - CRC22870
  • La Fortuna - La Fortuna Waterfall - CRC6130
  • La Fortuna - Nature hike around Arenal Volcano - CRC20420
  • La Fortuna - Cano Negro boat tour - CRC27360
  • La Fortuna - Stand up paddle board - CRC26260
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Watch the volcano fade into the distance as you begin the 5-hour local bus ride to Costa Rica's capital, San Jose. Head out on a walking tour with your leader on arrival to see the main highlights. Later, perhaps visit the Gold Museum, which has an amazing collection of pre-Spanish gold art. If you're in the mood for a bit of shopping, head to the outdoor market in the Plaza de la Cultura or the city's Central Market, where you can buy anything from handicrafts to seafood.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • San Jose - Leader-led walking tour
Optional Activities
  • San Jose - The Art of Craft Beer in San Jose - Urban Adventures - USD74
  • San Jose - San Jose By Night: Food and Culture - Urban Adventures - USD79
  • San Jose - National Museum - CRC4890
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
There are no activities planned for the final day so you are free to depart at any time. Haven’t seen enough in San Jose? Check out the offerings of Urban Adventures tour, from craft beer tours to day-trips to the countryside. Find out more at urbanadventures.com/destination/San-Jose-tours. There's a lot to see and do in and around San Jose, so if you'd like to extend your visit and need further accommodation, we’ll be happy to assist (subject to availability).
Optional Activities
  • San Jose - San Jose Bites and Sights Tour - Urban Adventures - USD36
  • San Jose - Tropical Rainforest and Chocolate Adventure - Urban Adventures - USD150
  • San Jose - Cartago Bike & Train Tour - Urban Adventures - USD63
  • San Jose - Pura Vida Experience: Tapas, Traditional Masks and Escazu Visite - Urban Adventures - USD65
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

1 lunch

Transport

Private vehicle, Public bus, local bus, Taxi, Shared boat, Ferry

Accommodation

Hotel (14 nights), Lodge (2 nights)

Included activities

  • Leader-led Informal Spanish Lesson
  • Copan - Archeological site (Transport & Entrance fee)
  • Suchitoto - Leader led walking tour
  • San Miguel - Salvadoran Pupusa cooking demonstration
  • Leon - Leader led walking tour
  • Granada - Leader-led walking tour
  • Monteverde - Leader led walking tour
  • La Fortuna - Leader led walking tour
  • San Jose - Leader-led walking tour

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm on Day 1. There are no activities planned for the final day so you may depart at any time.
2. A single supplement is available if you’d prefer not to share a room on this trip. The single supplement applies to all nights on your trip and is subject to availability. Please speak to your booking agent for further information.
3. Please be careful when booking flights to Antigua; make sure you fly into Guatemala City Airport [GUA]. Guatemala City Airport is the closest airport to Antigua. Please do not book flights to Antigua & Barbuda Airport [ANU] as this is an island in the Caribbean.
4. Please be careful when booking flights from San Jose; make sure you fly out of Juan Santamaría International Airport [SJO]. Please do not book flights from Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport [SJC] as this is located in California, United States.

Essential trip information

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